As I’m sharing this story with you, about how I hired my friend – whom we’re calling Sparkly – who turned out to be unqualified and then turned the whole office against me, Mike keeps reminding me of things I’ve blocked from memory.
Like the time we took personality tests at a staff retreat, and almost everyone tested about the same – each big into the emotion stuff, with a strong aversion to conflict. That’s kind of the norm for nonprofits, I’ve found. People who want to do good things for crappy pay tend to be all about the feels.
Except Sparkly. Sparkly tested high on the opposite end of the spectrum, in the case of this particular personality test: motivated by fun with a tendency toward bossiness assertiveness. Go figure, huh?
Oh, and, uh, ahem … our results were almost exactly the same.
Out of everyone in the whole office, we were the outliers. Like two sides of the same misplaced coin. Alter egos, or something. A real-life Fight Club.
Go ahead. You know you want to say it.
First rule of Fight Club is:
There. Feel better?
Anyway, around about this time Sparkly seemed to tire of being nice to everyone but me. She started spreading her snark around indiscriminately.
“Oh my, that dress,” I heard her casually say to a coworker in passing, “I had no idea the 80s could still look so fashionable.”
The woman’s face fell. “I just bought this,” she said lightly fingering one oversized shoulder pad.
Along with backhanded compliments, Sparkly liked to talk about money, mostly about how much she had and what she liked to spend it on. She talked about weekend shopping trips to San Francisco, her art collection, her private school education.
There’s another thing about people in the nonprofit industry: an ethic about making do with very little, and fairly persistent disdain for folks who strut around fanning themselves with Benjamins. Ours was not a group with an overt hankering for champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
I didn’t know where Sparkly was going with this crap. I’d been to her home, back when we were friends. It was nice, but no mansion. She drove a battered Toyota, the side view mirror attached with duct tape.
Sparkly once blew in after one of her weekend shopping trips showing off a huge, bright blue handbag. It was a high-end thing, we were told. The sales tax alone would be the equivalent of a car payment.
After that I started hearing not so sparkly things about Sparkly, like what other people would do with that kind of money if they had it, and about where Sparkly could stick her bright, blue bag.
Sparkly’s sparkle was fizzling.
Still, Sparkly had allies, and three of them formed a little faction. They were a tight, little entourage, and each had the other’s back. It felt like Survivor: The Office.
I should point out that around this time, for a number of reasons – not the least of which was my lack of skill in management – my boss and I decided she’d take over Sparkly’s supervision. My boss had a very strong aversion to firing people (remember our personality tests?), and was fairly certain we could mentor our friend Sparkly to a happy place.
Things didn’t turn out exactly as she’d hoped.
I won’t leave you with another cliffhanger, even though the rest of this could be a topic for its own blog. Heck, its own daytime television show, actually.
Over the course of the next few months there was a rapid succession of events wherein the group we’ll call The Sparkly Faction:
- Tried to stage a coup by quietly singling out members of our board with stories about how my boss was certifiably crazy and systematically trying to bring about the downfall of the organization,
- All the while, not realizing most of the board had pretty favorable opinions about my boss and her work and
- Not being a bunch of gullible pansies, many of these board members brought the news of the Sparkly Faction’s maneuverings directly back to my boss to ask what the hell?
The Sparkly Faction sort of disbanded after that.
Even after this poorly thought out attempt at a coup, Sparkly hung in there, refusing to believe she was no longer queen bee. Even when members of her retinue each quietly left (one to another job, one for some sort of desert sweat lodge retreat wherein she would eventually “find herself,” loose ten pounds, come back to town, liquidate her life savings and open up a froo-froo, shi-shi downtown spa), Sparkly held onto her job, but with no one to exclaim over her designer shoes.
Sparkly was a shadow of her former, boisterous self by this point. It was a little hard to watch. Without a retinue, she didn’t even try to sparkle anymore. She complained about procedures, about deadlines and the unreasonable demands of her job. Things weren’t going well at home, either. Her marriage was failing; one of her kids was a biter. She’d scuffed her Hermes. Life was rough.
After one public announcement she made about plans to move on to another job, our HR peeps told my boss we had grounds to ask for a specific deadline from Sparkly. She called Sparkly into her office, and asked me in as a witness.
Despite being big on emotions, she was fairly direct: “Since you’ve announced your intention to resign, we’re within our rights to ask you to give us a date.”
Sparkly looked at me. I gave her what I hoped was a sympathetic smile and she returned it. I wanted to be anywhere else.
Sparkly left without much fanfare after that. No one threw her a farewell party. In fact, after she’d cleared out, someone brought a handful of sage, which we burned while we pranced throughout the office. There may have been refrains of Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.
I still feel a little bad about that.
Wait a minute. No. No I don’t.
Sparkly still lives around here but we don’t appear to hang in the same circles anymore. I’ve never cornered any of our mutual friends and demanded to know why they would recommend her to anyone. I never asked my former coworkers why they turned on me like they did, and they in turn never asked me what in Hell I could have been thinking, hiring her.
I still don’t know what I was thinking. I think there’s a lesson in there.
Maybe I should have just said yes to the bar cart idea in the first place.
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